Welcome Spring Wildlife With a Butterfly Bush

Welcome Spring Wildlife With a Butterfly Bush

The following article is part of a series geared toward entry-level gardeners. For deep dives into many of the plants that we have sold over the years, visit our archive of in-depth perennial articles written by Tony Avent, Dr. Patrick McMillan, and other Plant Delights and JLBG experts. We also have transcripts of our Gardening Unplugged videos, recorded during our Open Nursery and Garden Days, that have great information for gardeners of all experience levels.


Many people enjoy seeing butterflies arrive in early spring. Gardeners take the time to incorporate certain plants into their landscaping that bring about these glorious creatures. A butterfly bush is a great choice for those who want an array of beautiful butterflies in their gardens throughout spring and summer. Butterfly bushes are woody shrubs that offer colorful flowers with a light fragrance. They make the perfect choice for a full sun garden and work well with other perennials to fill your garden with a variety of colors and foliage. Plant Delights Nursery offers butterfly attracting plants as well as other colorful plants that will enable you to create the perfect garden.

Below are a few of the most frequently asked questions about butterfly bushes.

When should I prune my butterfly bushes?

Butterfly bushes should be pruned at the right time to promote healthy growth, abundant flowering, and to maintain their size and shape. The best time to prune butterfly bushes depends on the variety, but generally, the best time is in the late winter or early spring, before new growth starts.

Here are the steps to follow when pruning butterfly bushes:

  1. Prune the butterfly bush back to about 12 to 18 inches above the ground. This helps to encourage new growth and prevents the plant from becoming too woody.

  2. Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased wood. Cut it back to healthy wood, making sure to make a clean cut.

  3. Thin out any overcrowded branches, cutting them back to the main stem or a healthy lateral branch.

  4. Shape the plant as desired, cutting back any branches that are growing in an undesirable direction or crossing over other branches.

  5. Finally, clean up any debris around the plant and dispose of it properly.

Remember to use sharp, clean pruning shears to avoid damaging the plant and to sterilize the shears between cuts to prevent the spread of disease.

How tall do butterfly bushes get?

The height of butterfly bushes (Buddleja spp.) can vary depending on the cultivar and growing conditions, but most varieties typically grow between 4 to 10 feet tall and 4 to 10 feet wide. However, some cultivars can grow even taller, up to 15 feet in height.

The growth rate of butterfly bushes is also influenced by the growing conditions, including soil quality, moisture, and light. In ideal growing conditions, they can grow quite rapidly, producing multiple stems and reaching their maximum height in just a few years. Regular pruning can help to control the size and shape of the plant and promote healthier growth and more abundant flowering.

Do hummingbirds like butterfly bushes?

Yes, hummingbirds are attracted to butterfly bushes (Buddleja) because of their abundant and brightly colored flowers. The long, tubular flowers of butterfly bushes are especially appealing to hummingbirds, as they are perfectly suited to the birds' long beaks and tongues. The nectar in the flowers is an important source of food for hummingbirds, which have high metabolisms and need to consume a large amount of nectar each day to maintain their energy levels.

Butterfly bushes can be a great addition to a garden or landscape that is designed to attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. When planting butterfly bushes for hummingbirds, it's important to choose varieties that are suited to your climate and growing conditions and to plant them in a location that receives plenty of sunlight. Regular deadheading and pruning can help to promote continuous blooming and attract more hummingbirds to your garden.

Where is the best place to plant a butterfly bush?

The best place to plant a butterfly bush is in a location that receives full sun and has well-draining soil. These plants thrive in warm, sunny locations and require at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day to produce abundant blooms. The soil should be moist but well-draining, as butterfly bushes do not like to sit in waterlogged soil.

When selecting a location for planting, it's important to consider the mature size of the butterfly bush and to choose a spot that has enough room to accommodate the plant's height and spread. Butterfly bushes can grow quite large, so it's best to plant them away from buildings or other structures that they may eventually outgrow.

It's also a good idea to choose a location that is easily visible and accessible, as butterfly bushes are popular with pollinators and are often visited by hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Planting them near a seating area or walkway can provide an opportunity to observe and enjoy these beautiful creatures in action.

Do butterfly bushes come back every year?

Butterfly bushes are deciduous or semi-deciduous perennials, which means they lose their leaves in the fall and go dormant during the winter months. However, with proper care, they can come back every year and produce abundant blooms.

In colder climates, butterfly bushes may die back to the ground during the winter, but they can grow back from the roots in the spring. In warmer climates, they may retain their leaves throughout the year and only require a light pruning in the spring to promote new growth and flowering.

To ensure that your butterfly bush comes back every year, it's important to provide it with proper care and maintenance. This includes regular watering, fertilizing, and pruning to promote healthy growth and flowering. Deadheading spent blooms can also encourage the plant to produce more flowers and prolong its blooming period. With proper care, a butterfly bush can live for many years and provide beautiful blooms year after year.

In conclusion, butterfly bushes are popular and versatile perennials that are known for their abundant and brightly colored flowers that attract pollinators, particularly hummingbirds and butterflies. These shrubs can grow quite large, so it's important to choose a location that has enough room to accommodate their height and spread, and to plant them in well-draining soil that receives full sun.

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